Sunday, December 28, 2008

Barred Owl

Wish I could be as wise as this little guy looks.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Christmases Have Changed

I didn't send cards this year
Or last year
Or the year before
I used to send them faithfully
To everyone I knew and cared about
It seemed important
To remember them all each year

This year, I remember them all
And I miss them
Whose cards were returned in other years
Telling me they had moved
Not to a new address on this planet
But to the mystery
That lies beyond human life

This is the dilemma
That comes with living long

But the good part is
There are new friends
To appreciate and love
New ideas
To make life interesting
And music
To lift the soul

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where Have I Been?

No poems, no posts--shame on me! But I am getting in gear again, and will soon post the rest of the story of Nellie the Night Heron, who made friends with some people in Shell Beach, California.

Also, in addition to the rest of the saga of Nellie, I will be back with some pictures and poems and other things. I've been watching Turkey Vultures when I walk on Bob Jones trail, just south of San Luis Obispo. They roost in tall trees at the end of the day, and sometimes, before that, play in the wind currents, soaring for ever so long without even flapping their wings. I used to shudder at the thought of a vulture, but now I see them in a different way. For one thing, they keep the earth clean, and we shouldn't look down on them just because of the unattractiveness of the important niche they fill. Oddly enough, they have mild dispositions, and never kill anything. They just eat things that are already dead. In situations where they have to be under the care of people, they can become very fond of them, and follow them around like a dog.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Blue Heron in flight

Isn't this a beautiful sight? I've seen Great Blue Herons often near Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo, but have never had a chance to get pbotograph, so when I saw this shot by Erica Marshall on Flickr I had to grab it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I just liked the way it looks

I used to live in Geneva, Illinois, near the Fox River. This is the way the trees looked then from our house. This picture brought it all back to my mind, and caused me to wonder if those magnificent trees could still be there, or has the push of development caused them to be cut down and replaced with houses or condos? As my life unfolded, and I lived in many different places doing different things, the one thing that was always missing was the beauty of those huge elms, and the river in the distance. Part of me is still there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I've been looking for a good photo of a night heron, and found this on flickr at Mike Baird's site. Perfect view. Mike is such a wonderful photographer. I think I'll paint this. I love it!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

a room with a view

a room with a view
Originally uploaded by belgianchocolate
I love tigers. They are magnificent. I traveled with a smell circus 2 months out of each year for four years, but it was quite a while ago. In the second year we had wonderful lions and tigers. The woman who had that act was from Poland. Her name was Olga. I asked her how she happened to become an animal trainer. Her face lit up, and she said she knew from the time she was a little girl that that's what she wanted to do.

Since she lived in Poland in communist times, she had to go to a state school to learn her life work. Her parents thought she was studying ballet! By the time they found out the truth, it was too late to change. She was very good at her job, and a nice, interesting person. I feel privileged to have known her, as well as her seven lions and six tigers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Originally uploaded by izzie_whizzie
Just a sparrow, but such a cute one. Back to write tomorrow.

Rather than write about this bird, cute as it is, I want to write about the adventures of a truly unusual night heron, named Nellie. So please look below for that post. Thanks.

Troy Parker Farr

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Story of Nellie the Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Originally uploaded by Sylpi
I want to tell the story of Nellie the Night Heron. Night Herons are nocturnal birds, active evening, night, and early morning, and seldom seen during the day when they rest in trees.

In 2005, in Shell Beach, California (part of Pismo Beach), there were five nesting trees, and several trees occupied by fledglings after they have left the nest and start to fend for themselves. From trees near the bluffs overlooking the ocean, they can survey the tidepools and look for food. It was a difficult year for the fledglings due to unusually high waves and tides, and they had a hard time finding food on the reefs where they normally feed on small tidepool creatures at low tide. At high tide they feed along the high bluffs for rodents, bugs, and frogs, but development along the bluffs has shrunk their feeding places considerably.

These difficulties resulted in the eventual death of all of the 15 fledglings that left the rookery on Morro Street that year, except Nellie.

In November, 2005, a resident of Shell Beach, Terry Lilley, a biologist, and his research partner and neighbor, Sue Sloan, observed one of the still remaining night heron fledglings feeding on snails and worms in a neighbor's yard. This was unusual behavior for a night heron, and none of the other fledglings dared to do it, but would watch from nearby rooftops. For a month they watched this behavior, and finally realized the little heron was starving, so they decided to supplement its diet to help keep it alive. They bought night crawlers and threw some out to her every morning as they went on their usual walk with coffee to the beach. They named the heron "Nellie".

After a few weeks of morning feedings, they graduated from night crawlers to fish. They gave her one each morning, and she ate it with gusto. They made it a practice to feed her only a small amount in order not to interfere with her normal feeding.

Ever since first meeting Nellie three years ago, Terry and Sue have seen her almost every day. Although still a wild bird, she has become their friend in the sense that she interacts freely, and comes very close, sometimes even sitting on them. But she is still living a normal bird life, and in the spring of 2007, had her own three chicks. Interestingly, the chicks don't come close, even when their mother is sitting on a human lap getting a treat. This year, she is again showing her mating colors, and, chances are, will be a mother again in 2008.

Nellie was the only fledgling night heron to come down on the ground, the only one to eat worms, and the only one to survive.

In the summer of 2006, Andrews Real Estate hired Bunyon Brothers Tree Trimmers to cut down a mature healthy Monterey Pine at the end of Morro Street, the tree used by Nellie and other herons as their nesting and resting place during the day. Both were informed about the nests and the importance of the tree for all the resident herons, and that taking it down would be a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Act. A film crew came and filmed the realtor promising he wouldn't take down the tree, and aired it on KSBY TV News. In spite of his promise, the realtor had the tree trimming company go ahead, and the tree no longer exists. Nellie and all the other herons were dispossessed.

Shortly after this, Forister Tree Service cut ten long-term night heron nests out of another tree on Morro Street. Such colony nests are also protected under the Migratory Bird Act even if there are no eggs in them, but that was not enough to stop the destruction. The breeding night herons had to leave the tree when the trimmers showed up, and fled down the street to one of the last remaining trees with heron nests. The tree was on city property, but the home owner living near it squirted the herons and some of the nests out of the tree.

(To be continued.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chirping Carol

Chirping Carol
Originally uploaded by bogenfreund
I couldn't resist this. I will add comments later. No time now.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Does God Go to War?

How can a leader believe God works through him
When he takes his country to war?
Does God need wars?
Is war God's way of solving problems?

War is immoral
Preemptive war unthinkable
What is it that's unclear to this leader
About "Thou shalt not kill"?

My Friendly Neighborhood Falcon

What an interesting shot! Also by Space Ritual. I think he's located in Canada, maybe Saskatchewan.

What manner of bird is this?Asks Herr Ritual

I'm not sure what this bird is, but he obviously has something to say. This was taken by Space Ritual and uploaded to Flickr. So cute.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


If we are all connected
Part of the same
Then what is war but self-sabotage?
What I do to my enemy I do to myself
There is no reason big enough
To make a war right
To ask the young to do things and see things
No one should have to do or see

How will those who come back be whole again
After they have been taught to kill
To kill or be killed
To accept it as all in a day's work?

Today's wars kill more than soldiers
Kill the armed and the unarmed
Families at meals
Teenagers on bikes
Vendors in the markets
Mothers nursing babies
Children at play

Think of those faces
Looking at you
Asking you why

What good have we done?

War destroys people in more ways
Than by bullets or bombs
If we who are safe at home
Had to spend one day with our soldiers
Had to see what they see
See what they do
We would say stop!
Nothing is worth this devastation
This savagery
This blood.

Just stop

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

King of the Beach

King of the Beach
Originally uploaded by brunkfordbraun
I am so sad to report that three elephant seals on the beach at San Simeon were shot and killed this last weekend. I can't imagine why anyone would want to kill such an animal. They don't bother anyone, and are so interesting to watch that people come from all over the world to see them.

These animals used to be hunted for their blubber, and in the early 1900s were thought to be extinct, but there were a few left on an island off Baja California. Present day elephant seals are descended from that group. They began to appear on the beaches in the San Simeon area in the late 1990s. The growing rookery was visible from Highway 1, and began to attract the attention of passersby, sometimes even causing traffic jams as people stopped to look.

Now California State Parks owns the land, and wardens and rangers patrol there regularly. Docents provide information to visitors. There are barriers there to keep people from bothering the elephant seals, or vice versa, and a parking lot has been created for interested travelers in order to prevent traffic jams.

A friend and I went up to San Simeon a couple of months ago on a cold, windy, wet day. We were shivering as we approached the fence and saw hundreds of big blubbery bodies laid out on the beach basking in the horrible weather. Only an elephant seal could have enjoyed it.

As we were leaving, we saw a seal out of the enclosure and in the ditch along Highway 1. We wondered about it, and two or three days later we heard on the news that an elephant seal had crossed the road and ventured onto Hearst ranch. A day or two after that there were pictures in the paper of the seal enjoying himself in a little pool. All the powers that be were trying to figure out how to coax him back across the road, and back to the rookery. It took several more days for them to finally succeed in getting the runaway, well, the flopaway, back home safely.

There were no quotes from the miscreant seal, so there was no way to know how he felt about his experience, and whether or not he was glad to get back home. But I do know he looked awfully happy taking his ease in that private pool.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Unknown Beautiful Flowers

Originally uploaded by Luke Brown
These lovely blooms were photographed and uploaded to Flickr by Luke Brown, who is located in England, and who also is responsible for the "robins" on one of my recent blogs which I did not believe were robins. Well, they are robins--European robins, which is why they are so different from American robins. It's never too late to learn, and learning is something I love to do.

I would like to learn what these beautiful flowers are. I hope someone will enlighten me by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Originally uploaded by mikebaird
This simple and perfect picture of geese just being geese caught my eye, and I had to add it to the birds I have been intrigued by lately. It was uploaded to Flickr by Mike Baird, whose photos can be seen at, and who is one of my favorite photographers of bird life and other things in nature.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Watching Me

Watching Me
Originally uploaded by CharlesLam
Another little bird person. They turn their heads to look at us. I love this one. More later.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Originally uploaded by izzie_whizzie
Here's another bird I couldn't resist. I will soon be writing a blog about birds, and will make an attempt to tie together all my miscellaneous bird pictures.
I find birds endlessly fascinating. Even the Turkey Vulture, whom I used to dislike, now entrances me. He has such an interesting personality. Turkey Vultures are not aggressive, they are generous to each other, they like to play together in the wind currents, and often, when rescued by humans, they bond to them and will follow them around like a dog. One in California that was rescued when it was tiny, bonded with people even though its rescuers tried to prevent that. It was released it into the wild, but ended up in a parking lot following people around, so its rescuers had to take it back, concluding that it didn't qualify for release. In my mind's eye I could see this poor bird trying unsuccessfully to find a buddy in the parking lot.
Turkey Vultures are ugly, its true, but beautiful in other ways. They are beautiful when they fly, floating on the air currents without flapping their wings. Plus, they do a clean up job that none of the rest of us would want to do, a job that benefits us all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For President: What I Think Now

Now that I have only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to choose between, I have given a great deal of thought to what the differences between them are. There are good things about both of them, and on many issues they seem to agree with each other--in fact, it's not so much on issues that they differ, but character and personality.

Hillary is a person of great accomplishments and is obviously very good at getting things done. She is effective and efficient. But...; I have always had a persistent "but..." in my mind about her, especially when it came time to think about whether or not I would be happy to have her running the country. What was the root of my hesitation? What made me, and some others, get a twinge of uncertainty about her in spite of all she has done?

The fact that she has been able to accomplish so much, and to be so doggedly persistent in the face of difficulties, seems to put her in an almost superhuman category, and out of the realm of being a person who could understand the feelings and problems of ordinary individuals. I have begun to have the uncomfortable feeling that she wants to be at the top so much, she would be willing to do almost anything to get there, and that the desire to excel might lead her to believe that ends justify means.

I first heard of Barack Obama when he gave such an outstanding keynote speech at the Democratic convention. It was beautiful, and many others reacted to it as I did. It was not like the usual political rhetoric, but somehow more reasonable, more adult, more imaginative, and more compelling. I thought at the time, "This is a guy to watch. He has something unusual to give."

Now that I have had many chances to see him and hear him, my initial reaction has been confirmed. It is not just that he is a good orator, it's not just his delivery, but the substance of what he chooses to say and the way he says it. He speaks from an inner calmness and balance that is reassuring. He talks about what "we" can all do together. He includes us in a very fundamental way. On the other hand, Hillary tells us what she has done in the past, and what she can do for us in the future. She doesn't include us. She may care very much about regular people, but she fails to express that, and instead exudes an aura of superiority and emotional coldness. Barack, on the other hand, gives the impression of being human and empathetic, in spite of being an unusually brilliant and capable man. His humanness and his balance are apparent even when he is making points.

A person who believes they must do it all is not likely to be good at delegating. I heard a quote from Hillary on just that subject, saying that a president who delegates power would not be effective. I think Hillary runs the danger of making herself responsible for everything, while Obama strikes me as more likely to recognize his own limitations, to seek information and advice from others, and to have the judgment to be able to use that information well.

His judgment and his ability to think creatively make up for the lack of experience that Hillary so often mentions. Experience isn't everything. I can think of many experienced and knowledgeable people that I wouldn't want for president. I have confidence in Obama because he is so intelligent, so adult in his outlook, and such a creative thinker that he could weather any storm that arises better than most people could, experienced or not. I feel he is a man of principle, and does not believe that ends justify means.

Lastly, it appears that Hillary's campaign is not nearly as organized, nor running as smoothly as Obama's, and that provides an important clue as to which one would be the most effective in the oval office.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Robin with Result of Robins

This is a robin. Still don't know what the previous bird labeled "robin" actually is.

Monday, March 10, 2008

And Again

Originally uploaded by Luke Brown
Now I must look him up. Or her.

Here He Is Again

Originally uploaded by Luke Brown

What is It

Originally uploaded by Luke Brown
Such a cute bird! But I'm not familiar with it so thought I'd put it on my blog to find out.

After looking through my bird books, I have come to the conclusion this must be a house finch, but I'm still not dead sure. If anyone who reads this happens to know, please tell me. Incidentally, the shots were taken in England. Perhaps it's a bird we don't have in the U.S.?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Originally uploaded by cosmicsailor
Although this egret was photographed at San Francisco Bay, there are many in the area where I live, San Luis Obispo, in central California, half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In face, where I often walk about two miles inland, they have taken to roosting in a large tree near the parking lot for the trail--Bob Jones Trail. It is quite a sight to see them when they all come in at sunset. They look like beautiful white tree ornaments arranged throughout the branches of the tree.

Levitating Peanut

Levitating Peanut
Originally uploaded by cosmicsailor
I couldn't resist just one more blue jay, because this one has a peanut, and I've seen them look like this so often in my yard.

Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)

Here's another view of the beautiful Western Scrub Jay, looking just the way they look in our yard. They are so beautiful they almost take my breath away. And so much fun I never tire of offering them peanuts, and then watching what they do with them after they take them out of my hand. They are fearless and intelligent. A wonderful bird.

Western Scrub-jay in Tiburon

Western Scrub-jay

We are constantly entertained by the blue jays in our yard who come for peanuts, and also for fellowship. We know they like the peanuts, but they seem to enjoy us too. When my son was feeling very low, there was one blue jay who would come to see him in his shop at the end of the car port. First he would sit on the open door and and look in, and then he would come inside and sit on the counter by the vise and look at Bob. It was just as if he were saying, "What's the matter? Can I help?"

One day, when I was dispensing peanuts, the blue jay, instead of eating it, pushed it into the ground of our gravel-covered back yard. He worked really hard at it, and finally got it poked down out of sight. Then he carefully covered it with rocks, one at a time, and as a final touch, found a leaf and placed it carefully on top. I was laughing at this performance because it was so cute, but was impressed because it was done so well. To me it was amazing that he could conceive such a project and then carry it out with such finesse.

In spite of such close and friendly association with the blue jays, I have never caught a good picture of one. I found this one on flikr. It was uploaded by little.jafa.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Great Blue Heron in flight

I have been trying for so long to get a good photo of a Great Blue Heron, and have not succeeded, but I just found this one on flickr, uploaded by Erica Marshall. What a beautiful view of a stunning bird! Way to go, Erica.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


After watching Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton indulge in a nasty spat like two little kids in a school yard, I am completely turned off of both of them. The Clintons are playing "two against one", and I sympathized with Obama when he said to Hillary, "Sometimes I'm not sure who I'm running against." I wonder if others besides myself felt the unfairness of the situation, disgust with Hillary, and disappointment with Obama because he wasn't mature enough to avoid taking the bait. Once you do that, you lose control. Neither Obama nor Ms. Clinton came off looking anything but petty.

John Edwards, on the other hand, seemed like the only grown-up in the crowd. He made excellent points, even though he was overshadowed by the ridiculous barbs and accusations of Obama and Clinton, due to the moderator's lack of fairness . Why did Wolf Blitzer let them go on so long with their spat? Was that fair to Edwards? Or to the listeners who wanted to hear what all of them had to say? I am disgusted, because this sort of unfairness deprives us of the opportunity to hear enough from everyone to be able to choose the best person to be the democratic nominee, and thus (we hope) the president.

Just because the media is obsessed with the idea that the nominee will be either Obama or Clinton does not mean the voters agree. In fact, this obsession continues to make it more and more difficult for us to hear what Edwards has to say. Why is there not more fairness in handling the debates? Why should the media be telling us who we can listen to, and who we get to pick from in choosing our nominee or our president?

I'd like to be able to get the media to stop making up our minds for us, and to cover news about the candidates in an unbiased way. The media is supposed to be reporting what happens, not trying to make things happen.

If anyone has any answers to these questions, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

About Voting

When I was born, women did not have the vote. At the time, this was not a matter of great concern to me, I was mainly interested in being fed, dry, and warm. I still like to be fed, dry, and warm but, as soon as I was old enough to vote, voting became even more important than mere physical comfort. It's mind-boggling, now, to realize that once women couldn't vote, or own property, or have control over their money. "What if I couldn't vote?" I asked myself. Politics, candidates, unfairness, laws, ideas for change--all those things I found so fascinating to think about and discuss--all would be beyond my power to affect with a vote, or even a conversation.

I recently heard some young people discussing voting, and opining that it wasn't worth it to vote because "it doesn't make any difference anyway." I wasn't part of the conversation, but would love to have been able to tell them how precious a right it is, the right to vote. I wanted to tell them it's the only way to make their voices heard. And if they don't vote, they have no right to complain about the results, They have to live with them whether they like them or not. If everyone gave up on voting, there would be no democracy. We would be ruled by those who's main interest is to get in power and stay in power.

Sometimes elections are won by very small margins, and those cases demonstrate how important every vote can be. We are lucky to live in a democracy where the voice of the people really counts. Or it does unless we become so apathetic that we don't take any interest. Whoever reads this, whether you are young or old, and whether or not we agree or disagree, please vote. Think about what you want for your city, your state, or for the whole country, and speak up with your vote. Take a serious look at the candidates and ask yourself which ones you would like to have making decisions about your life. Vote!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008